3×10: Competition 1: AmbushVille

11th October 2013

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

For this competition, you must create a senario where you are ambushed by Combine Forces.

There are no limits to map(s) size or playtime. You can set the map in any environment that you want.

Please see the rest of this post for full details.

Judging Criteria

The winning map(s) will be the one that sets up the ambush in the best way, paying attention to the atmosphere, the surprise and the general gameplay. If a map sets up the ambush beautifully but is then boring to play, it won’t win.

Attention to detail is very important in this competition. I would much prefer smaller but highly polished maps than larger, less polished maps.

Beta Testing

Please contact Ade, the leader of The Beta Testers Collective, a free map beta testing project, to have your map tested. I fully understand that 10 days is very short but even one playthrough by somebody new is enough to highlight issues. She can be contacted here: [email protected]

Sponsor and Prizes

This competition is sponsored by SteamContests.Com who are kindly donating one $5 Steam game and I will also be adding another $5 Steam game. At this point I don’t know if the winner will be able to chose their games or if it will be a random selection.

Special Rules

Please ensure that your map works on Steampipe.

Special Rules

For more information on Steampipe, please see: Steampipe and the Current Issues, this FacePunch Mapping Thread and this Steam Community thread. You could also try a web search for specific issues.

In the 3×10 announcement, The_Blazer wrote “Specifically, the Source SDK tool is now entirely disabled, and Hammer needs to be launched from Steam > steamapps > common > Half-Life 2 > bin. It


  1. Hec

    WOWW!!!!!!! YEAH MAN I was eagerly awaiting for this comp.!!!

    I hope we have many mappers and we are going to have a great map compilation!!!

    Many thanks Phillip, for at last propose this cool topic for a competition!

  2. William

    I’d like to donate 20 dollars worth of steam games of the winners choice for this contest so long as there are more than 4 entries.

  3. Ambush? Mmmh, that sounds like a thing which requires very accurate map planning, but I do love a challange from time to time! Plus, it’s a very interesting and cool theme.

    Me being me, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to create something on time, but I’ll definitely do my best!

  4. Finally! 😀
    I think I got an fair Idea, not the most original, but I’ll stick to it since 10 days, means I have not time to change my mind.

  5. Oh my god the directory mentioned in the Steampipe thing is all wrong! Sorry, it’s completely my own fault.

    Could it be corrected? The right one is

    Steam > steamapps > common > Half-Life 2 > bin

    1. I’ve updated the post to reflect the changes.

  6. David

    Where can I read up on and fix the Steampipe thing? Thanks.

    1. Please look in the main post, it has its own sections with links.

  7. Well…already scrapped an Idea…
    This was harder than I remember it…the theme is really challanging.
    If I understood right, the judging is the atmosphere and the ambush section itself. If I have some gameplay before or after, will that be judged?

    Right now, it feels like I’m not going to enter this competition.

    1. I fully understand that 10 days is not a lot of time and I am not expecting anything amazing.

      Look upon these competitions as just a challenge for your creativity and time-management.

      Think of a simple concept and work towards that. Even if you don’t win or create anything incredible, the process you went through may make you a better mapper.

  8. Mega Sean 45

    Does it have to be ambush by Combine forces? What if someone wants to make an ambush with Zombies or Antlions? Just asking.

    1. Yes, that would be fine too.

  9. The way a ambush works is that you position yourself in the path of the ones you are going to ambush, but would it be okay if the player was stationary and the combine did an suprise assault on a building?

    1. The player should BE ambushed, NOT ambush the NPC. SO, what you suggest is exactly what you should have been thinking from the beginning.

  10. Mazur

    So I thought for once I should probably make a comment and show what happens behind the scenes. This is what you’ll get to play provided this time hammer do what I want him to do.

    I don’t want the game reward because the map breaks the retail content rule due to the chopper model from Battlefield 2 I really, really wanted to add to the map. So in the event I happen to be the winner, give it to someone else 😉

    Today it’s been mostly a scripting and planning day. The chopper is fully functional like I want it to be, except that due to a source engine bug I cannot add an interactive pilot model. If I still have time once everything planned for the map is added, I will try some more workarounds. There’s a bit of basic architecture that needs refinement as well.

    1. Mazur

      Day 2 summary.

      The 3D skybox is fully complete and the surprise is 50% complete. I was busy most of the day and only had about three hours to work on the map and yet I’m still ahead of my initial planning.

      To sum up, so far it’s going to great.

    2. Mazur

      Day 3 summary.

      The 3D skybox has been refined a bit more, however I won’t spend more time on it unless I’m really ahead of the schedule next weekend. Most of the architecture bases have been set and some scripting has been added.

      Meanwhile, cubemaps are being a bitch.

    3. Mazur

      Day 4 summary, a quite short day with not much time to map.

      All of the core brushwork is complete, a whole new –spoiler– has been added and people will hopefully enjoy it, although it could be ten times better if source wasn’t that restrictive.

      I was considering giving voice acting to the whole thing. Maybe it will happen if I’m not tired next weekend. Last time I gave a try to choreo scenes it was a nightmare with faceposer crashing all the time for no reason, so this is definitely at the very bottom of the possible improvements you’ll see. I could add radio communications though as this could be very easily done. Any suggestion about that?

      1. If you can add radio voice to your map, do it. It’s easy, simple, doesn’t require any messy faceposer work, and it can be done with simple ambient_generics instead of the complex choreo entities.

        As long as it’s easily comprehensible, having some guy talking to you on a radio while you play is much better than having to stop and read 6 lines of text that tell you what to do.

        Just don’t do like COD, where every 4 seconds you get orders from the radio.

        1. Totally agree with this. We can pretend it’s a new feature of the HEV.

          1. dino_yoshi13

            Actually, it’s not a new feature at all. Alyx used it during the chapter Entanglement in HL2.

      2. Mazur

        Sorry, just received some bad news in RL and making sure I am where I’m needed is more important to me than mapping right now. I will release my map in the state it should have been sent this sunday somewhere in the next 15 days depending on when I come back.

        1. We hope everything works out for you in RL.

    4. Mazur

      Day 5 summary.

      I’ve mapped earlier than usual today. I still wish I would have more time to work on the map, it would have allowed me to implement a surprise much better than how it’s gonna be right now. This map will definitely need a director’s cut version xd

      I’ve spent most of my time doing all the scripting up to the “ambush room” and so far it’s great. A good chunk of the post ambush scripting has been done as well so I’m confident it will result in an enjoyable map. The downside is that it might be short.

  11. Well, since someone is doing a “mapping diary”, why shouldn’t I? It will help me stick to my schedule, at least.

    So, yesterday and today: decided the theme (place, time of day, general textures, general models etc…), finished the pre-ambush area, sketched most of the map on paper, and partially set up the ambush area.

    On day 3 (tomorrow), I’m going to fully script the ambush, and pheraps build a little bit of the post-ambush part of the map.

    1. So, day 3 has come to an end. Just in case you’re wondering, I counted the starting day of the competition as day 0 since I didn’t really do anything that day.

      Anyway, the main scripting for the ambush is there, however, I’ve fallen behind my schedule a bit, since only the first part of the ambush is ready, and I haven’t compiled the updated scripted map yet (if you’re not mapper, this means I basically haven’t tested it yet).

      On day 4, tomorrow, I’ll definitely have to fully complete the entire ambush and to crate quite a bit of the part after the ambush. As I’m going to lose a few precious days due to a trip I just can’t cancel, anything after the ambush has a good chanche of getting cut and never making it to the final release. I have at least one idea for post-ambush gameplay that I want to give a shot to, though.

    2. Day 4 Summary.

      Well, today I completed the ambush sequence. It was really hard to get the Combine AI to cooperate. They seem to have a dislike for zerg-rushing and instead tend to regroup just outside of the player’s reach and send their man one by one or in very small groups. Kind of suicidal but it does keep the player pressured, plus, I want to leave all tactical decisions to the AI, I’m sick tired of games where every single bit of enemy behaviour is scripted like in some puppet show.

      I also designed the geometry for the very last scene. I completely skipped anything between that and the ambush, because, as I’m losing 4 days, if I end up with no time to design new areas, I’ll at least be able to join the final area and the ambush sequence to get a playable map with an ending and release the whole thing, even if it ends up being very short.

      Still, I’ll do my best to add as much gameplay as possible after the ambush and before the final sequence, although it won’t be anything too spectacular.

      1. JG

        If you want the Combine AI to rush the player, the main way is to use an aiscripted_schedule with the “!player” as the target, interruptibility set to “Death” and the goal type set to “Run and Set Target As Goal Entity” (not exact wording).

        This is particularly useful for shotgunners, but as I’ve found doing Excavation, it’s not necessarily something you want to do on everyone. I think it has a tendency to preclude the Combine AI from doing more interesting behaviors. However, it is something to keep in your toolbox considering how fragile Combine Soldiers tend to be. There are cases when you want them to spend their short lives being as aggressive as possible.

        Excavation led me to discover a lot of AI entities I didn’t bother way before (or, in the case of ai_standoff, even knew existed). My intent was to have a big focus on cover, so you see a lot of Combine crouched behind the jersey barriers or railings. But it required a lot of hand-holding and an inordinate amount of I/O (use aiscripted_schedules to go here, enable/disable info_node_hints as appropriate) to make them do that.

    3. Final Hours:

      Well, VALVe seems to have chosen just the right moment to nuke VBTC, the third-party compile program that I rely upon and I use instead of the official copmile programs.

      To make matters short, I use it in conjunction with the editor (known as Hammer) to make maps: Hammer is used to build maps, while VBTC converts the editable map file (.VMF) into a playable level (.bsp).

      Now that it is broken, I will have to use the “official” compile tools that ship with Hammer, which have several problems: no way to know what the computer is “thinking”, messy interface, 100% chanche of extreme lag unless you manually set affinity, priority, threads and other funky-named options that would make NASA proud, etc…

      But screw it, I’ll get this map ready by midnight even if it kills me!

      1. Robert Martens

        Sorry I didn’t see this comment earlier, but in case you weren’t aware, if you add -low to the command line of VBSP, VVIS, and VRAD, they’ll run in low priority without having to play around with CPU affinity through the OS; I think VBCT does that by default, where Hammer doesn’t, and adding it I’ve found the build tools have a much lower performance impact.

  12. Loving the daily updates. Almost wish I could make it part of the rules.

    Looking forward to seeing the progress today.

  13. Greenman

    Not going well for me, just not enough time.

    Will points be deducted for the lack of a surrounding area? By virtue of my maps setting, it will need a lot of “dressing” in the background, would be a huge timesink.

    1. Without seeing the map, it’s hard to say but if the area where the player plays is well polished then maybe it could be ignored. Pleas don’t stop though.

      1. Greenman

        I’ll try. But can’t promise it’ll be good enough to warrant release ^^

  14. DeadCamper

    Sadly, I just won’t finish anything on time this round, and it’s about an hour before the deadline and I’ve only got a cruddy set piece at best. I look forward to the other entries though!

  15. Pheeeeew.

    I submitted the map on my Google Drive account for access by Phillip just before the deadline.

    Let me say that I’m not really happy with this map. Time constraints forced me to cut away a lot of things I wanted to add, but hell, at least I got a half-decent playable level submitted, and in time too.

  16. Greenman

    Ye same here, not happy with my map, but it’ll do considering the time restraint.

  17. Robert Martens

    I held off from saying anything for fear I wouldn’t finish, but I sent my submission along to Phillip with just under ten minutes on the clock. I’m crossing my fingers it’s not broken, and praying it’s not functional-but-awful. All sorts of little things had to get cut to meet the deadline (tiny, unimportant things like fun and craftsmanship), but it’s done and can be played, as far as I can tell. All told I’m fairly happy with it, though I’d have liked my dumb brain to cooperate and make my decisions faster. I learned a lot, anyway, so at least I’m now better equipped to tackle my magnum opus when the day comes.

    Good luck everybody!

  18. At the start of the comp I was in the same boat as Robert, not posting in case it didn’t go anywhere. Got the map in a little while ago though. Good luck to everybody else

  19. The concept managed to tempt me. I’m satisfied with my entry, especially considering I could only give it four solid days (or so). I had a lot of wonky ai issues, but I managed to get most of them resolved (barely). I turned it in with about 8 minutes to spare!

    1. Ade

      I can’t wait to play it!

  20. Ade

    I feel a general opinion of time being too short for this.

    Only 1 author contacted me about a test, and even tho I replied within 2 hours asking whether he would want to use the forum for th efeedback or have each tester write individual email with the feedback, in the end he gave up saying it wasn’t enough time to finish it anyway. Which is a shame.
    But raises a question from us, BTC, for next competitions let’s decide from the go if you, the authors, want direct feedback or not. I which case provide an email you’re comfortable with, and the testers will also be warned that a competition stage will be coming and let’s hope we will make the best of it.

    1. Hey Ade,

      I was the one that contacted you about the testing. I actually did complete and submit my map. I didn’t know how the BTC did things, so when I was looking for testing I just sent an email with my map. I figured that you might give it a quick play through and return some comments, as there was not time for anything else. However, the intention of the BTC seems to be providing more thorough, ongoing testing which requires early notice to find people dedicated to testing a particular map over time. I do not think that this is feasible for a competition of this length, although I do appreciate you offering the service.

      1. Ade

        Well like I said, I for one actually replied pretty fast, awaiting your decision, and in the end you said you didn’t have time to submit in the first place.. I can’t do anything with that.

        1. I think the problem was the time zone difference. It was late at night when I sent the first email, and the next night after that was my last opportunity to work on the map. I didn’t say that I wasn’t submitting my map, I must have not made myself clear. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  21. George Campbell (Noface)

    Managed to make the deadline (I think!) and I am relatively happy with my map. I did have better plans for it but its better to release than keep delaying.

    Since this could be some sort of spoiler I will just say something ambiguous: I spent ages on something in anticipation for adding something in the future, the combination would have been great but I only managed to finish the first thing!

    Ah well it has been fun and I can’t wait to play all of the other submissions, I have a feeling this will be a great ville competition.

  22. Just my luck. I tried making a map but I didn’t get one single Idea. Just now I found a photo that triggered a great Idea for an Ambush map. Oh well, maybe I’ll still make it and release as just a map.

  23. Greenman

    Any release date in mind Phillip?

    1. I remember it usually taking a week, or a little while longer.

    2. I’ll make a start on it this weekend. I have a squash tournament on Friday and Saturday, so if I play badly then I’ll have Saturday to start but if I play well, then Sunday.

      But I won’t rush it, like I did with most of the others. I want to play each entry a few times before deciding the winner etc.

      1. dino_yoshi13

        Just curious, but how many entries did you get?

          1. Greenman

            Just to double check, you got mine?

            1. Yep. I was going to play them all quickly and then reply to everybody and mention anything I needed to. Save me replying that I got it and then sending another about any issues.

              1. Greenman

                Alright thanks. Just had trouble with attachments in the past.

          2. Nine maps is quite a haul, congrats Phillip

            1. Thanks, but I’m not sure I can take much credit, except for perhaps picking a good theme.

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